They Tore Down Jefferson: Conservatives Were Right, Slippery Slopes Exist

Jefferson statue

December 16, 2021

“The outrage from conservatives directed towards the demolition of Confederate statues is not necessarily in defense of the statues themselves, but rather the novel ideology that is driving the sudden push to do so.”

That quote is from a column I ran in this article entitled The Problem with Tearing Down Statues.

I can report with a bittersweet sense of accomplishment that I called it right on the mark. The sweet part, of course, is being right. But where does the bitterness part come from? Well… from also being right.

Donald Trump also raised this fear in 2017, when he argued that the demolition of Confederate statues would make the Founders next in line. He was met with a bombardment of arrogant dismissals and gaslighting from the mainstream media. In a piece entitled “Statues of Washington, Jefferson Aren’t ‘Next,’ But it’s Complicated, Historians Say,” Dartunorro Clark of NBC News wrote: 

“Historians who spoke to NBC News said such fears are slightly misplaced and that Trump is championing a murky interpretation of history… ‘The president can raise the slippery slope, but it’s a false slippery slope,’ said Kevin Levin, a Boston-based historian who specializes in American Civil War history.”

On Monday, October 18, the New York City Public Design Commission voted to remove the statue of Thomas Jefferson that stood over New York City Hall’s council chamber. The vote was unanimous.

The statue has since been removed, as was reported by the New York Post. The former president stands vindicated. A big fat I told you so! is in order.

Thomas Jefferson was a man who left behind an incredibly fascinating, controversial, and nuanced legacy. He was a bit of a radical by the standards of his time, even amongst the other American Founders. He is perhaps the most controversial in our time, however, for his numerous condemnations of slavery while simultaneously owning slaves himself.

Jefferson has since, like most of the Founders, been branded as a hypocrite and used as a rhetorical punching bag by the American left. His sins are overemphasized while his accomplishments, the Declaration of Independence; his prohibition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the United States; his proposal to rid the Midwest of slavery—are overlooked for the sake of partisan expedience.

But Americans don’t celebrate Thomas Jefferson for his ownership of slaves, or for his various individual hypocrisies. We celebrate Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of the Founders, for their courageous efforts to lay down the initial foundations of our republic: a political experiment so ingenious for its time, and stands today far more perfect compared to its original inception in that Philadelphia state house more than two centuries earlier.

One of the main reasons why we honor the Founders, at least in part, is because we understand that the ideals they laid out for future generations of Americans are actually unattainable. That’s the whole point. They’re called ideals and not ideas because they denote perfection—a state in which man is not, nor will ever be, made for. The Founders understood very well what we have seemingly forgotten, which is that while the ideal may be unattainable, the prudent initiative to gradually improve society in pursuit of those ideals will produce results that are anywhere from benign to beneficial for the citizenry. 

The reason why our nation’s left wing subversives ignore this is not because they’re confused, or that they don’t understand, but rather because they’re philosophically opposed to it. Instead, in their rejection of prudent incrementalism, they prefer radical social experimentation, in which they seek to propel mankind into a utopian fantasy, under the illusion that human nature is totally malleable at the whims of the state. 

A long time ago, I used to scoff at Tucker Carlson-type conservative commentators and personalities who boldly predicted the American left’s initiative of erasing American history in pursuit of their utopian endgame. I stand corrected.

Conservatives were chastised and beaten with the proverbial ruler for standing against the demolition of Confederate statues, with the left citing the usual charge of “defending racists.” But it never had anything to do with turning a blind eye to the moral hypocrisies we find so obvious today, nor are we under the illusion that we can, in good conscience, somehow defend those historical figures in every instance, or condone the sins they committed.

Conservatives were, and still are, far more concerned with the ideology that is at the forefront of the current statue demolition phenomenon than the statues themselves. That ideology, quite frankly, is one that seeks to destroy the basic social and cultural fabric of the United States in pursuit of ridding it of its alleged modern-day systemic ills; and one of those supposed systemic ills is the continued honoring of our Founders.

For a society that honors racists, they say, is one that needs to be purged and rebuilt from the ground up. “A radical choice in the face of this history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness,” said antiracist superstar Ibram Kendi in his book How to be an Antiracist.

So no, I won’t apologize for being against the demolition of Confederate statues, nor will I apologize for condemning New York’s recent demolition of Thomas Jefferson, nor should any other conservative. The outright denial that slippery slopes exist, the gaslighting that conservatives endured during their objection to statue demolition by most of the mainstream media, is almost pathological at this point. It is this commitment on the far-left to tearing down all things old in pursuit of ushering in all that is new, predicated on a sort of fantasist historical revisionism, that threatens to deal irreversible damage to a civilization that has grown to become one of the most tolerant and diverse in all of human history, despite its obvious shortcomings.

It is times like these when America is reminded, regardless of whether or not our liberal friends choose to acknowledge it, of the ongoing necessity of the conservative in the face of the fashionable pursuit of “progress”, which is so seemingly constant and ongoing, devoid of any checks or balances. National Review’s mission statement comes to mind: the duty of the conservative to stand athwart history yelling “Stop.”

We would be right to heed those instructions.

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